«In many ways, the work of a critic is easy,» Ego says. «We risk very little, yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face is that, in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is probably more meaningful than our criticism designating it so. But there are times when a critic truly risks something, and that is in the discovery and defense of the new. The world is often unkind to new talent, new creations. The new needs friends.»
The phenomenon of disruption occurs when successful firms fail because they continue to make the choices that drove their success. In other words, it does not apply when firms are poorly managed, complacent, fraudulent, or doing things differently because they are now shielded by barriers to competition. To be sure, firms can fail because of those circumstances, but that is not what we mean by disruption. (...) a “disruptive event” occurs when a new product or technology enters the market, causing successful firms to struggle. (...) an organization strains most to assimilate new architectural knowledge when it has been successfully focused on exploiting innovations based on the previous architecture.
The key to dealing with disruption is to understand that it emerges surrounded by uncertainty. While hindsight often suggests that certain disruptive events were obvious, this is far from clear when those events are emerging. (...) Some firms may be shielded from disruptive events because they possess key complementary assets, the value of which is not changed and may be enhanced by those events.
Self-disruption was proposed by Christensen as a means of proactively avoiding the consequences of demand-side disruption. The idea is that the firm takes control of disruption by charging a new division with the competitive role that would otherwise be taken by a new entrant. While establishing an independent new division can appear to be an effective response, firms often fail to translate it into successful and sustainable models as they kick the dilemmas associated with disruption down the road. Managerial conflicts emerge, and established firms find themselves unable to resolve them effectively.
If a firm wants to ride out continual waves of disruption, it needs to maintain organizational structures that preserve and can evolve architectural knowledge. Integration and continual coordination of component-level teams in product development has been shown to be an effective way to avoid existential threats to successful firms. But what has not been appreciated is that integration and coordination stand diametrically opposed to the independence and self-disruption mantra many firms have adopted to mitigate disruptive risks. It stands to reason that if your problem is how the parts fit together, adding another unit charged with doing its own thing is not going to solve it.
Dealing with disruption to ensure a successful and sustainable business involves more than just taking some additional bets with autonomous units that may get you slightly ahead of the game. (...) you need to bake your response to disruption into your mainline organization. The dilemma you face is that betting on sustainability is not without cost to short-run competitive advantage and profitability. Not all businesses will take the same path. However, once you have gone through the journey of disruption—its intellectual history, its practical reality, and the way leaders have dealt with it—you will have the two paths clearly laid out for you. What you do at that point is up to you.
Interruption is the enemy of productivity
If you're constantly staying late and working weekends, it's not because there's too much work to be done. It's because you're not getting enough done at work. And the reason is interruptions.
Think about it: When do you get most of your work done? If you're like most people, it's at night or early in the morning. It's no coincidence that these are the times when nobody else is around.
At 2 p.m., people are usually in a meeting or answering e-mail or chatting with colleagues. Those taps on the shoulder and little impromptu get-togethers may seem harmless, but they're actually corrosive to productivity. Interruption is not collaboration, it’s just interruption. And when you're interrupted, you're not getting work done.
Interruptions break your workday into a series of work moments. Forty-five minutes and then you have a call. Fifteen minutes and then you have lunch. An hour later, you have an afternoon meeting. Before you know it, it's five o'clock, and you've only had a couple uninterrupted hours to get your work done. You can't get meaningful things done when you're constantly going start, stop, start, stop.
Instead, you should get in the alone zone. Long stretches of alone time are when you’re most productive. When you don't have to mind-shift between various tasks, you get a boatload done. (Ever notice how much work you get done on a plane since you’re offline and there are zero outside distractions?)
Getting into that zone takes time and requires avoiding interruptions. It's like REM sleep: You don't just go directly into REM sleep. You go to sleep first and then make your way to REM. Any interruptions force you to start over. And just as REM is when the real sleep magic happens, the alone zone is where the real productivity magic happens.
Your alone zone doesn't have to be in the wee hours, though. You can set up a rule at work that half the day is set aside for alone time. Decree that from 10 a.m. to 2p.m., people can't talk to each other (except during lunch). Or make the first or last half of the day your alone-time period. Or instead of casual Fridays, try no-talk Thursdays. Just make sure this period is unbroken in order to avoid productivity-zapping interruptions.
And go all the way with it. A successful alone-time period means letting go of communication addiction. During alone time, give up instant messages, phone calls, e-mail, and meetings. Just shut up and get to work. You'll be surprised how much more you get done.
Also, when you do collaborate, try to use passive communication tools, like e-mail, that don't require an instant reply, instead of interruptive ones, like phone calls and face-to-face meetings. That way people can respond when it's convenient for them, instead of being forced to drop everything right away.
Your day is under siege by interruptions. It's on you to fight back.